Research Questions

Questions I am investigating in my dissertation:

  1. How do girls, through their artifact making and designerly practices, story themselves and contribute to technology culture (i.e., what kinds of stories do girls make and tell about girlhood in-interaction-with/against technology)?
  2. What are the impacts and effects of adopting designerly roles (i.e., game designer, media producer, robotics engineer) in terms of developing girls’ ability, confidence, interest, and participation in technology?

Learning : : Thinkering : : Mattering @ 101 Technology Fun—
Girls Designing Games, Media, Robots, Selves & Culture

(working abstract, your feedback is most welcome)

Recent advances in digital media and technology have led to breakthroughs in communication, education, entertainment, health, and learning. Today’s girls, the most avid technology users of any generation, now have widespread access to the most ubiquitous productivity tools in human history. With unprecedented opportunities to live better lives and realize their fullest potential, it is an exciting time for girls to be alive! And yet, despite all the liberating possibilities, many girls are distancing themselves from technology fields, careers, symbolism, and ideologies. Academic and industry research from the past thirty years documents that females continue to be under-represented in technology-related studies and professions, especially the industries that design and develop new technological innovations. How might we empower girls with the confidence, literacies, and tools that are necessary to benefit from and fully participate in advancing our increasingly mediated and technologically dependent society?

My dissertation begins with the premise that engaging girls with hands-on, heads-on, hearts-on, and feet-on experiences as designers and researchers of technology can be personally and culturally transformative in pro-feminist, pro-social, and empowering ways, rather than simply reproducing existing gender and generational roles. 29 co-researchers (girls ages 9-13) and I work closely with UBC faculty, graduate students, and teacher candidates at 101 Technology Fun, a series of intensive research camps offering designerly learning experiences in gaming, media, and robotics for middle school girls. Utilizing creative and participatory approaches to data collection, including design thinking challenges, iLife diaries, and ME documentaries, my study examines: How do girls story themselves through their artifact making and designerly practices? How are diverse cultural constructions of technology adopted, rejected, and remade by girls? What are the impacts and effects of adopting designerly roles in terms of developing girls’ agency, capability, interest, and participation in technology? Analysis of co-researchers’ artifacts, designerly practices, and research reflections are integrated with theoretical and empirical understandings to contribute a working portrait of how contemporary girlhood is constructed in-interaction-with/against technology and stories. Highlighting the need for girls’ voices to be recognized and given influence in educational research, this study exposes some of the gendered risks and opportunities, generational barriers, technical ingenuity, and transformative learning that girls articulate and reflect upon as they design and share artifacts and stories. Findings call for increasing girls’ agency and capability to participate as the designers and innovators of technology such that they can experience or effect more equitable and sustainable technology futures.

//PJ

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